So how does a printer work anyway?

by Andy Ng on August 20, 2021 Categories: Tech Tips

We have them all over the place, and many of us use them every day, but how many people have any idea how they work?

Today’s technology tip will give you some basic information about how the venerable laser printer and ink jet printer works. But first some background:

The Printer’s Progress:

In the beginning there was the pen, paper and a room full of monks. Eventually this was replaced by the typewriter and carbon paper (if you’ve never heard of carbon paper before here’s a link to: The Exciting History of Carbon Paper). When computers came out there was a great urge to create “hardcopies” or printouts of whatever the computer did. Initially they connected teletype machines to early computers but these were eventually replaced with dot matrix printers. By the late 1980’s the old dot matrix printers, with their messy ink ribbons and uniform letter spacing, were being replaced by better technology.

Today there are basically two kinds of printers, Laser Printers and Ink Jet Printers. The laser printers are the best choice for large scale printing while the ink jets are better for small scale printing. Chances are you have an ink jet printer at home for example.

How they Work:

Ink Jet Printers – They spray tiny drops of ink onto the paper to create the image. The dots are as small as 50 microns. A human hair is about 70 microns for reference, so don’t bother looking for them. For more information about how ink jet printers work we recommend this website:

Laser Jet Printers – They use static electricity to stick plastic powder (toner) on the paper and then melt it onto the paper using a hot roller. That’s right, laser jets don’t use ink they use toner which is a very fine plastic powder. For more information about how these printers work I recommend this website:

There are colour laser jet printers by the way. They use toner that is black, cyan, magenta and yellow to create all the colours of the rainbow.